"In the aftermath of the season, we talked about change," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "Some of what is changing involves the process and some of it involves people. This is a decision that was made based upon consideration for an entire team.
"We will move on now with a new team -- a new attitude -- and into a new stadium. The evaluation process and the prospect for change will continue at every level of the organization."
Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, indicated in a text message that his client was ready to move on as well. "There are several teams that are interested in signing Terrell. I have been in negotiations with these teams. I will not identify these teams at this time. Terrell and I expect to have a deal in place by the end of next week if not sooner," Rosenhaus wrote in the text message.
Owens released a statement Thursday on his Web site thanking Jones, coach Wade Phillips and the organization "for the opportunity to be a member of the team for the past three years."
"A big thanks to the fans -- you've been awesome! I look forward to the upcoming season and continuing to play in the NFL," Owens added.
Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd said Owens sent him a text message late Wednesday, saying he had been cut by the team.
"He didn't give me an explanation. He just said, 'Wow,' " Hurd said Thursday. "I really didn't believe that he seen that coming."
Hurd said Owens' reaction was "more shock than anger."
"He said it's tough, but it's a business," Hurd said.
Jones and his son Stephen told Owens and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, in person Wednesday in Florida to inform him of his release, sources told ESPN's Ed Werder.
"Well, this was certainly a tough decision," Jones told the NFL Network at a league meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "And I have all the feelings that I should have as far as Terrell as the great player he is and the impact he has made. I do appreciate what he has been for our team. But we certainly felt that this decision is the way we ought to go."
The Cowboys paid Owens a $12 million signing bonus just last year, which was included as part of a new four-year, $34 million deal. Dallas will take a roughly $9 million salary-cap hit with the release of Owens.
There has been talk since the end of the Cowboys' 9-7 season, in which they missed the playoffs, that they would consider cutting Owens to improve locker-room morale.
In late February, Jones did not deny the team was discussing the possible release of Owens. Owens' future was brought up again in meetings at Valley Ranch on Wednesday, but Jones had not made a final decision by the time most people had left the building, a source told ESPN.com's Matt Mosley.
Werder reported that according to a Cowboys source directly involved in the decision, Jones was "following the advice of many, many people" in jettisoning Owens.
Not only did Owens have relationship issues with quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten, but the receiver consistently criticized offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's play calling and his offensive schemes to the point that sources have said Garrett did not believe he and Owens could coexist.
Although the Cowboys were trying to downplay a possible rift between Owens and Witten during the season, the two reportedly came close to blows in mid-December.
An incident occurred at the Cowboys' training facility when Witten tried to engage Owens in a conversation about a pass route. Owens told Witten to stay away from him and called him a name. The two exchanged words before being separated.
The confrontation came a day after a source told ESPN that Owens believed Romo and Witten -- close friends and road roommates -- hold private meetings and create plays without including Owens.
Although Romo will be without the recipient of most of his touchdown passes, he also will no longer have to make sure T.O. gets enough passes to make him happy. Whether that was perception or reality will no longer matter, either.
"I know it takes a lot of pressure off Romo," Hurd said. "A guy like him demands the ball and you want to get him the ball. Now he can look at all of us and see which one is open on any given play. ... I don't think that was a problem. That's just what could and might start happening."
The Cowboys went 31-17 in Owens' three seasons, but 0-2 in the playoffs.
Jones essentially forced Owens on then-coach Bill Parcells, a relationship underscored by Parcells referring to Owens as "the player." Owens drew attention to himself during training camp by dressing up as a pro cyclist while riding a stationary bike, then had an accidental overdose early that season.
"You've gotta realize that Bill bought into Terrell joining our team and don't think Terrell didn't come to this team without Bill's blessing," Jones said last week. "He wanted to win and use the talents of Terrell as much as anyone in this organization ... the entire time Bill was coach they never spoke."
Yet when Parcells turned to unproven Romo midway through that season, Owens sparkled. They kept it up the next season, leading the Cowboys to all sorts of club records on their way to a 13-3 season and a division title. The Cowboys lost their first playoff game, days after Romo and others went on a trip to Mexico during the break, and Owens tearfully defended Romo, saying: "That's my quarterback."
Owens told The Dallas Morning News in May 2008 he "definitely" wanted to finish his career with the Cowboys.
What's next for T.O.?
It remains to be seen what kind of market there is for a 35-year-old with a proven track record -- good and bad.
Owens is among the NFL's career leaders in catches, yards and touchdowns. Over the past three years, his 38 touchdowns are one more than Randy Moss and he's among the league's best in catches, yards, yard per catch and yards per game.
But the Cowboys are his third team and all three have gotten rid of him because of personality, not performance.
Al Davis and the Raiders might be interested. Or maybe Daniel Snyder will want to add another big-name star to the Washington Redskins, especially to take advantage of the animosity T.O. might bring to his two games a year against the Cowboys and the Eagles.
"I don't think [being released] is going to stop him from playing football," Hurd said. "He's going to be back on somebody's team."
Don't look for him to replace Laveranues Coles on the Jets. The team has no interest in Owens because of the distractions he'd bring, a person familiar with the team's thinking told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The Cowboys still should have a potent passing game, at least if receiver Roy Williams can live up to his big contract and the two draft picks Dallas gave up to get him from Detroit. Romo also still has his favorite target in Witten.
In his three years with the Cowboys, Owens caught 235 passes for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns in 47 games. He led the NFL with 13 touchdowns receiving in 2006, his first season in Dallas.
In his 13-year career, he's a five-time All-Pro and ranks second in career touchdowns, fifth in career yards receiving and sixth in career receptions. He turned 35 in December, but remains a physical specimen.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.